[BACKGROUND: The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association asked all candidates three questions for their newsletter. Below is a much expanded version of my response]
What do you anticipate will be the biggest changes to life in Vienna in the next 5-10 years [with the new Maple Avenue Corridor development options, growth in Tyson’s Corner, widening of I-66 and potential for increasing traffic levels]?
First and foremost, I believe that Vienna will find ways to maintain that sense of community that ranks our town as one of the best places to live. We should not be fearful for the future, rather we should be prepared with presence and advocacy for what we want in our Town as distinct from Tysons, Falls Church, Merrifield, or the rest of Fairfax County. That is not stay we should be stagnant or try to turn back the clock. We are in 2016 and there are important new challenges to be able to expand the Town’s vibrant community.
We need to look forward while understanding what make our Town special, looking backward to remember who we are…looking forward, finding ways we can, rather then reasons we can’t. We need to have that conversation, together!
People and Housing
Demographics of Vienna will change with more older residents looking to downsize from single family homes. New families will be moving into town looking for single family homes near the growing employment center in Tysons.
The trend of residential teardowns and larger, new homes will continue due to market demand. However, Town staff will step up their reviews the proposed and final site plans for conformance to Town codes. We will see housing alternatives for young couples and empty nesters such as condominium and townhome residences as part of Maple Avenue redevelopment. We will find methods to encourage retention of mid-range price point single family homes. The Town of Vienna will be challenged to find housing in the community for its employees to both live and work here. The Town’s zoning code will become a living document rather than a ‘once every five year set and forget’ exercise.
We will see new businesses established and some others come and go. Vienna will become a distinct destination rather than simply a path to work. Residents of Tysons will come to Vienna to shop and eat. The Town will define an economic vision for development and leverage supporting incentives or credits available to encourage the foundation and expansion of local and small businesses.
With addition of new residents from younger generations, the Town will move to embrace the current trends in using technology to connect with its citizens and businesses. Printed newsletters and information will still be issued to the community, but many residents will receive their information though smart phones and tablets. Elected and appointed officials along with staff will become a strong presence in northern Virginia advocating for Vienna’s distinct community. There will be increased civic engagement in community and regional issues.
Maple Avenue will remain congested but adding the focus on community with unifying street design, improved walkability, and more transit service. VDOT has several projects in the works that could potentially affect Maple Avenue that will be completed in this time frame: the I-66 Outside the Beltway Project, the East-West Integrated Corridor Management Study and the VA Route 123 widening in Tysons as part of the Tysons Comprehensive Plan build-out. We can expect some diversion onto Maple Avenue where construction will be involved . Post-opening, we will likely see an easing of cut through traffic in Vienna due to the highway project and expansion of transit service from Vienna Metro to Tysons…but will build back up over time in the 10-20 year time horizon.
Each of these projects and studies provide an opportunity to work collaboratively with VDOT to leverage money improvement the Town’s traffic signal system and regional transit service. The Maple Avenue zoning amendments give the Town control over development and the amount of parking and traffic created in comparison to by-right development. The mix of uses on along Maple Avenue will allow people to put together multiple trips by parking once and walking from place to place.
The Town through the Comprehensive Plan and the Town’s transportation design standards will see residential streets designed for people and the adjacent land uses rather simply for traffic. There will be more neighborhood roundabouts designed and installed beyond the first one at Park and Locust Streets SE.
Over the longer term horizon we will see the changes in traffic operation and safety in the 10-20 year range with the increased availability of connected vehicles that use communications for crash avoidance and driving in congested conditions.
The Town will continue to maintain its Aaa Bond Rating and will further align its strategic plan to programmatic and capital budgeting. There will be an on-going conversation about the value of Town services vs. the tax rate and tax assessments especially in the context of Fairfax County’s increasing rates and assessments. The Town will move toward a performance management approach to administration of departments.
The Town will continue to be successful in capturing grant money for infrastructure projects to improved roads, sidewalks, storm drainage. The Public Works Department will be providing expanded performance measure information based on outcomes citizens rather than simply quantities. We will go through another financial and programmatic evaluation to determine whether the value of the Town’s water and sewer system is best managed by the Town or transitioned to Fairfax Water.